Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Apartment Birds

The past few days I've been noticing birds hanging out under the bush right against my window. Yesterday there was a robin that was chilling down there until it noticed that I was sitting just a few feet away (in my apartment). Then it got a bit worried and eventually flew up to the window to check me out, got freaked, and flew off. After relating that story to Megan she suggested that I put some bird seed out under the bush to help distract me more from work. I had been thinking about doing that anyway and I guess that nudge was enough to get me to do it, because this morning I tossed a bit of seed out the window.

So far the only birds I have seen eating on it have been several juncos. They've flown in and out a couple of different times. Actually, I'm not sure if they were the same birds - one group had four and the next time I only noticed two, so it could have been a partial return or a different group. Just a few minutes ago a hummingbird flew up to my window and looked in. That was pretty exciting but I doubt that it had much to do with the seed I put out.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Walk Through Ravenna

It was sunny today and I have kept up on work pretty well this week, so I decided to go for a walk through the park this afternoon. I wanted to take a more leisurely and wider exploration of the park than I usually do so this time I walked all the way down to the other end (which I had never done before) and explored some of the side trails on the way back.

Shortly after reaching the park I noticed a lot more grey squirrel activity than I had seen there before. On my way out I saw one climbing a tree with a mouthful of red cedar bark, presumably for its nest.

Near the far end of the park I noticed some raccoon tracks in the creek. While I went out and took a look I also felt like raccoon tracks there were starting to get a bit old - I never found more than a couple of tracks at a time and it wasn't giving me much new information (though perhaps I could begin to catalog the tracks to determine different sized animals.) As I was walking up a side trail though I happened to glance to the side and see a raccoon huddled up in the crotch of a tree near the trail. I watched it a while and tried to get it's attention, but it seemed to be ignoring me (perhaps hoping that I wouldn't see it if it didn't look up). After that encounter I kept my neck craned up a lot more.

I saw and heard quite a few birds. A bunch of chickadees I think both black capped and chestnut backed, a ruby crowned kinglet, wookpecker (hairy? didn't get a good look), and others.

I also saw some people applying graffiti to the supports of one of the bridges. They were on one side when I walked down and the other side when I walked back. A person who I had thought was having a cigarette at his sit spot later seemed to be walking around with the painters, so I'm curious what he had been doing sitting hidden beneath a tree by the creek.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Slug Feeding Sign

Snow tracking was cancelled this weekend because it was supposed to snow through the night before so there probably wouldn't be much good tracking. So instead I stayed inside most of the day. I did get a new battery for my camera though so was able to finally download some pictures that were on there from previous trips.

This was during the December tracking intensive class. We spent most of the day wondering around in the woods near Bellevue and at one point somebody noticed some interesting marks on a tree so several of us gathered around to try and figure it out.

We ended up deciding it was probably from slugs feeding on the green algae(?) growing on the tree.

Friday, January 19, 2007

More Raccoons

I haven't got outside much this week - between projects and work I've been pretty busy during the day.

I did go to pick up a book at the library a few days ago and was surprised to see raccoon tracks along the side walk in the middle of the residential area just around the corner from my place. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised since I've seen them at the lake and the lake is surrounded by residential and business areas.

Tomorrow will be my first outing for the snow tracking survey along I-90 that is being co-ordinated by some people at WAS. I just got back from renting snow shoes (I've been working on making some, but haven't finished yet). We are supposed to meet in Duvall at 6:30 so it will be an early morning for me, but should be interesting.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Walk Around Green Lake

There was a light snow this afternoon, so I kept my eyes out when I walked around the lake this evening. I didn't really expect to see anything interesting since it had only snowed recently and had not been dark long (I started a bit after 7). It did not take long until I saw my mystery rodent tracks, fresh, bounding along the shoreline (I am leaning towards rat, the size seems right, but I wouldn't expect it to always be bounding like these animals have been doing). Not too much farther than that I saw some fresh raccoon tracks. I was going a different way around the lake then in my previous entry so though these tracks were also in the NE corner the were on opposite ends of it. That was an exciting discovery for me, realizing that the raccoons were out already (though it probably shouldn't have been a surprise) so I tried to keep my head up more in case one might cross my path. After that the light was less consistent and I didn't end up seeing any more tracks of particular interest until I got back around to the east side of the lake again and saw more rodent tracks in the same places they had been last time. I did see what I suspect were two rabbits running around in the south woody area, but it was too dark to tell for sure what they were.

The waterfowl seemed to mostly congregate along the southern part of the eastern shore though there were a few groups further out in the lake and a couple of groups interspersed in other regions, including a group of what looked like 10 shovelers near the community center (I have previously seen only two shovelers around that area).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Snow Days

It snowed here Wednesday night. I was grateful to have the opportunity to get out on Thursday and explore the tracks left by whatever happened to be about (after having wasted the chance last time it snowed here).

I had heard that there were weasels and rabbits up by the Woodland park zoo so I figured it would be a nice idea to walk along Green lake and then up towards the zoo. I live near the northeast corner of the lake so walked around the south end and up through the park.

I was a little surprised to see raccoon tracks walking along the edge of the northeast corner of the lake. They went for a ways, then disappeared (it was hard to follow tracks in most places because of the high human and dog traffic) about the same time that some other tracks - possibly rat - began. In looking through my field guides rat seems to be the right size for those tracks, but I am suspicious because they were bounding the whole time (a pretty good ways) and I don't think bounding is the normal gate for rats. Another possibility is squirrel, but I we mostly seem to have larger gray squirrels around in the city rather than the appropriately sized douglas squirrels.

Another set of tracks that surprised me were the coot's. I expected that I might see some, but I did not think the tracks would be so large. I guess large feet might be an important adaptation for them since they are in the water so much and don't have webbed feet. Bird tracks are still pretty tricky for me. There were also a number of what looked like corvid tracks, which I guessed were jays because of their size. Megan asked, "Couldn't they be crow tracks?" But I didn't think so because I was pretty sure crow tracks would be larger - they aren't. We later passed some crows and the tracks they left were the same size.

As we got toward the southern end of the lake we saw more and more rabbit tracks. We continued on up into Woodland Park where rabbit tracks continued to be numerous. We also kept an eye out for weasel tracks, but didn't find any. Unfortunately it was quite cold (probably would have been fine if it weren't for the stiff, cold winds) so I was not too inclined to go digging around more seriously for weasels.

I went over to Ravenna park today which is another of my regular nature spots, but it was pretty well tromped by the time I got there. The only non-domestic tracks I saw were from grey squirrels.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tracking Weekd

Tracking class met on the east side (of the cascades) over the weekend. The first day we went to pot holes which is a cool area with lots of great opportunites for a naturalist.

While trailing a deer Dan found the turtle shell he is holding. In the background is one of many Russian olive trees that had been severely chewed on by porcupine, it seemed to be there preferred food in the area. After seeing how much they went after it, I'm surprised I haven't seen more evidence of them in southern Idaho where Russian olive has invaded many riparian areas.

This heron had been killed within the past day or so. I was surprised at finding a bird as large and aware as a heron like that. The people who discussed it seemed to think either an otter or a bobcat had killed it, though we saw neither otter or bobcat tracks while there.

Parts of three people are visible in this photo (and I'm there taking the picture). This is inside a dried up beaver lodge. It was pretty impressive - large and sturdy. It didn't appear that any beavers had been living there too recently, but the floor had an abundance of porcupine scat (as did a different dried up lodge we found) which lent a pleasant earthy farm smell.

The second day we went over to Hanford Reach. It has a fairly similar ecology to potholes - mainly shrub steppe. The water was less plentiful than at potholes, with the exception of the river winding through the canyon below.

We spent a fair bit of time working on identifying small rodent tracks. They were not too difficult to find, though it was hard to find ones that were very clear. Near the end of our time we found some very nice tracks in the mud down by the river. This image shows a fairly clear hind track and one of the clearest front tracks I saw all trip. Some things that we learned to look for in identifying mice tracks are whether the front and rear tracks are similar in size (in this image the hind tracks are the ones nearest the pencil, the front tracks are back near the middle of the image), how symmetric the front tracks are (here the outer toes of the clearest front track do not seem symmetric at all) and the size and placement of the hind inner toe. These characteristics are often difficult to tell without the clearest of tracks, and even then there can be variation between sets of tracks. Habitat is another important clue to help determine species.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Low Tide

Last night around 10pm there was a very low tide in the sound so I went with a friend down to the beach to explore. It was a strange experience for me to be out at such low tide at night. I am used to the really low tides being early in the morning, which is how I always remember it being where I grew up.

Megan is a lot more knowledgeable about intertidal stuff than I am, so it was fun to look around with her. Most of our exploring focused on and around largish rocks sitting down near the water (I guess they would normally be covered if the tide weren't so low). There were lots of interesting things to see: starfish, gumboots, crab (even a couple of dungeness), worms, anenomes, sea cucumber (which I'd never before seen in the wild), and a nudibranch (which I'd never before seen outside of pictures). There was also a heron in the water, apparently hunting, which was unexpected as I wouldn't have thought a cloudy night would be a very good hunting time for them.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Making a Come Back

It's been quite a while since I have posted anything. I was thinking I was just going to abandon this blog, but not that I've settled into a new place and am getting out a bit more I will see about getting up and running on this thing again.

I am now living near Green Lake in Seattle. Green Lake seems to be a decent place for birding - at least there are a lot of water fowl there - I'm not yet a good enough birder to be very discriminating. On Sunday I went for a walk down at the lake (after having been inspired to get more into birding following volunteering for the Audubon Christmas bird count) and saw a pair of shovelers, European and American widgeons, coots, mallards, a common goldeneye and few ducks that were hanging out with the mallards but looked different and a bit bigger though I couldn't find them in the field guide (I wonder if they are escaped domesticated ducks?)

Today I walked through part of Ravenna park. It has the only semi-decent ground for tracking that I have found nearby. Unfortunately much of that is heavily trampled by people and dogs as well as strewn with broken glass. I did see a few sets of raccoon tracks though. I wonder how much time they spend in the park. I would guess they do much of their foraging in the surrounding urban areas, maybe just passing through the park to get to the next garbage can, perhaps they sleep in the park as well.

While I was looking at the raccoon tracks, I noticed a couple looking for a winter wren that was chirping in the underbrush. I talked with them a bit and they mentioned seeing a bird that looked a bit like a nuthatch but was small and had white marks on its shoulders a little further down the trail. When I got down the direction they came from I heard several bird calls that I didn't recognize (there aren't too many calls that I do recognize yet), but was not able to see any close up (and I don't have a decent pair of binoculars to help out with the ones further away). It was interesting to me to see the contrast between my bird knowledge and that of the couple. While I had been clearly more comfortable identifying the winter wren, while describing the other bird they displayed at least a cursory knowledge of several other birds which I am not familiar with at all (other than recognizing the name and having a vague idea that they might occur around here).